Thriller to land Imperial plot

Unbeaten four-year-old heads Pipe bid to continue family's lucrative stratagem

The first phase of the annual assault on the Cheltenham Festival prize money begins this afternoon in Surrey. Time was when the Imperial Cup, first run in 1907, was easily the most important hurdle prize of the season and no pre-war Champion Hurdle winner came close in ability to Trespasser, hero of the Sandown feature from 1920-22. Nowadays, though, the venerable contest is merely the hors d'oeuvres before the feast.

There is a record £3.56m on Prestbury Park's groaning board next week, which make's this afternoon's prize of just under £40,000 look like a single canape. But, of course, should the winner go on to take any race at the Festival, there is a bonus of £75,000.

One stable has proved something of a masterchef at providing that particular recipe, that of the Pipe family, pere et fils. Martin trained six Imperial Cup winners, of whom Blowing Wind and Olympian claimed the extra cash. David has won the last two renewals with Gaspara and Ashkazar; the former followed up in the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle and the latter beat all bar Crack Away Jack in the same race.

Today the favourite Mr Thriller, near the top of the handicap, and Seven Is My Number, who made the cut with none to spare, represent Pond House. But before the conspiracy theorists leap atop a grassy knoll, what might happen in the future is not the prime concern of any trainer, even the shrewd cookies at Nicholashayne. It is hard enough to win one competitive handicap, let alone two within six days with the same horse (as well the philanthropic sponsors Paddy Power know) and today's first prize is the bird in the hand.

Mr Thriller (3.10), a four-year-old half-brother to Gaspara, holds five Cheltenham entries, the Supreme Novices, Ballymore Properties, Triumph and Fred Winter hurdles as well as the Coral Cup. He comes to today's fray unbeaten in his two runs since joining Pipe after five outings in his native France, with the form of his success at Fontwell last month boosted since by success for the runner-up and third.

"He's done everything right," admitted his trainer. "And although he is high enough in the weights, he does get the four-year-olds' allowance. he looks progressive and he won't have any worries about the hustle and bustle of a big field."

Seven Is My Number has not raced for more than a year. "He's had problems all his life," added Pipe of the seven-year-old, "and has been difficult to train. But he is potentially well-handicapped; how well we'll find out soon. But with both horses, we'll wait to see what happens at Sandown before making any plans for Cheltenham."

The majority of today's runners are older, battle-hardened handicappers with the County Hurdle as their target. Gary Moore, as adept as Pipe at targeting these valuable prizes, is looking for something of a consolation for Numide, who was strongly fancied for last month's abandoned Totesport Trophy and before that had blundered a winning chance at Ascot away at the last.

Though Take The Breeze, another ubiquitous French-bred from the all-conquering Paul Nicholls yard, was further behind that day at Ascot, he has since won a lesser contest well under today's rider Harry Skelton, the only man to have won on him in this country and whose claim partially offsets his mount's rise in the weights. The six-year-old is still on the upgrade and appeals as each-way value.

The day at Sandown opens with another decent prize, this time for young hurdlers bred for their job rather than being recruited from the Flat. Previous winners include smart subsequent chasers like Control Man and, two years ago, Albertas Run, who contests Friday's Gold Cup.

The one who appeals most as an exciting talent, both today and for the future, is Bakbenscher (2.05), progressing steadily through the ranks with four victories, two in bumpers and two in hurdles. The grey Bob Back gelding's most recent success has been franked by two subsequent wins by his runner-up Captain Americo and his trainer Alan King could hardly be in better form.

Bakbenscher's stablemate Voy Por Ustedes heads the 12 entries left in the Ryanair Chase at yesterday's penultimate confirmation stage. The gelding, already a dual Festival winner in the Arkle Trophy and Champion Chase, as short as evens to bring up the treble in the two and a half-mile showpiece. Last year's winner Our Vic, Tidal Bay and Imperial Commander are among his chief rivals.

There is also a hotshot at the head of the market for Thursday's other Grade One contest at Cheltenham, the World Hurdle. French raider Kasbah Bliss will face a maximum of 15 rivals as he bids to go one better than his length second to now-retired Inglis Drever last year.

*Five of the 10 runners in the opening maiden hurdle at Ayr yesterday were disqualified after their riders took the wrong course after bypassing a dolled-off hurdle. The 5-2 favourite Etxalar, ridden by the 5lb claimer Campbell Gillies, passed the post first but he and the four who followed him in lost out in the stewards room. The race went to Graham Lee's mount Seraphin, first home of the only other two finishers.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Native Glen (Sandown 3.10)

NB: Sergeant Harper

(Chepstow 2.25)

Kauto Star out to regain his lost Gold Cup crown

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions